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Tree Nut allergy

Tree nuts come from a different plant family other than peanuts. Some of them are almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews, pistachios, chestnuts and so on. The whole raw nuts and their by-products – oils, extracts from these nuts can cause allergic reactions in some people. Coconut is also a tree nut, but it does not cause severe allergic reactions. Usually, doctors do not restrict or advise avoiding coconut – either in the tender form or the fruit which is used in cooking.

The immune system of the body which recognises the proteins in these nuts as harmful substances tries to create a barrier for them and produces antibodies. This will result in the form of allergic reactions. Few of the symptoms of the adverse reactions to tree nuts are as follows:

People having an allergic reaction to one tree nut like cashew can show allergic reactions to another tree nut like pistachios also. Some people can eat limited quantities without any allergic symptoms.

Tree nut allergies; sometimes tend to be severe – causing Anaphylaxis – a life-threatening condition which requires immediate medical help and hospitalisation. The patient will suffer from dizziness, shortness of breath, drop in blood pressure and heart palpitations.

Almonds are used in many ways – can be eaten as a dry fruit and also used in making oil used for cooking as well as in cosmetics. It is also used in confectionaries, chocolates to enhance the taste. It is advised to get tested for allergy for all types of tree nuts from an allergist; better to be safe than sorry.

Eating nuts in small portions in your daily diet may reduce the risk of developing blood clots which can bring about a heart attack.

Allergy reactions to tree nuts are different from that of peanuts since peanuts are legumes and tree nuts are edible fruits in a hard shell. They are considered as dry fruits and are good for growing children as they contain omega three fatty acids, vitamin E and fiber.

There are lots of advertisements announcing this fact, and people are encouraged to buy almonds, walnuts specifically. Because of the fibre in them, they tend to reduce the bad cholesterol too in adults. Eating nuts in small portion every day is very healthy provided you are not allergic to them. Almonds are also a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant effective against heart disease and cancer. People who are allergic to one type of a tree nut can show allergic reactions to other types of tree nuts too.

Processed tree nuts like the roasted ones show very mild allergic reactions in people than the raw nuts. The severity of the allergic reactions is different from person to person.

Test & Diagnosis:

An allergy test and food challenge test would be conducted at the clinic of an allergist. A skin prick test and a blood test would be conducted at the clinic or hospital to determine the type of allergens and the severity. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, then the allergist may advise avoiding exposure to all kinds of tree nuts, their byproducts and in any other form.

Immunotherapy is one of the ways to help people with tree nut allergy. Extensive research is on an ongoing basis. In children, allergy to tree nuts results in asthma with severe coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

This type of allergy tends to go on for life. Only those children who develop unyielding immune system can outgrow the tree nut allergy. For the rest, this would stay on for life.